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December Opens Wet

December Opens Wet:

A winter storm brought a mixture of rain and snow to the state over November 30-December 1.  Many climate observers reported 1-4 inches of snowfall, and some reported record amounts for December 1st, including:  12.0" at Lake Wilson; 9.2" at Madison; 9.0" at Pipestone; 8.7" at Sioux Falls, SD; 8.4" at Lakefield; 8.0" at Worthington; 6.0" at Ortonville: 5.5" at Litchfield; and 5.0" at Georgetown.  The high water content of the snow also produced some new daily precipitation records for December 1st, including: 0.97" at Duluth; 0.70" at Watson; 0.58" at Worthington; 0.55" at Milaca; 0.52" at Ortonville; 0.50" at Georgetown, Browns Valley, 0.47" at Kimball; and Moose Lake; 0.45" at Mora.  Following the snow storm temperatures plunged into the teens and even single digits in some areas of Minnesota.  As a result soil temperatures have dropped into the 30s F and in some places the top 2 inches of the soil has begun to freeze.

New Probability Snowfall Forecasts:

NOAA-National Weather Service will deploy a new experimental probability forecast method for snowfall this winter.  The NWS will still provide a "most likely value" for snow in their forecast, but they will also bracket this with probabilities for other values, both bigger and smaller.  These will be expressed in narrative forecasts, but also graphically on the NWS-Chanhassen Office web site, which also features examples and explanations of these new products.

 A Warm and Wet November Ends:

November of 2015 ranked as the 4th warmest in history on a statewide basis.  Most observers reported a mean monthly temperature that ranged from 7 9F above normal.  For the Twin Cities it was also the 4th warmest November since 1872.  Over 40 weather observers reported at least one daytime high temperature of 70F or greater.  Only a handful reported any subzero temperature readings.

With the exception of a few observers in northwestern counties, November of 2015 was wetter than normal, ranking as the 9th wettest historically on a statewide basis. Several observers reported over 4 inches of precipitation for the month.  Snowfall generally ranged from 2 to 5 inches, mostly coming toward the end of the month.  Isabella, above the shoreline of Lake Superior reported 15.5 inches for the month.

The month was windier than normal with maximum wind gusts over 40 and 50 mph on November 19th.

Announcement: Third Annual Climate Adaptation Conference, January 28, 2015

Registration is now open for the 3rd Annual Minnesota Climate Adaptation Conference on January 28, 2016 at the Hilton DoubleTree in north Minneapolis.  This conference is designed for local officials, planners, engineers, natural resource practitioners and others who want to learn more about adaptation strategies that have worked or are being tested in various sectors, tribal communities, energy, local foods, emergency management, communication and water resources.  At the conference we will also hear from several major corporations about how they are addressing climate adaptation and listen to a mayors panel at lunch where they will discuss city approaches to climate adaptation. 

For the second year, Climate Adaptation Awards will be presented to recognize achievements in leadership, education, research, policies, or practices that improve resilience and advance climate adaptation in Minnesota. 

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) climate negotiations in Paris, France are getting plenty of public attention this week.  Many media sources are providing ongoing data and commentaries.  Among these are Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth Blog.  You can keep up with the news from the conference as well as some of the back stories from the diverse groups that are represented there. 

Dr. Jessica Hellman, Director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota is also in Paris for the Conference and she will be blogging The Conversation over the next several days.

The World Food Programme has released an audio and visual guide to how global climate change may impact food supply and hunger.  It is interesting to examine the geographic disparity relative to areas and cultures that will see their food supplies most threatened. 

If you want to follow daily snow cover maps across the nation this winter, NOAA-NCEI has a tool for you.  You can find Mapped Snow Cover Data on a daily basis, or even animate the daily changes over weeks and months. 

NOAA also released this week its Summary of the 2015 Atlantic, Eastern Pacific, and Central Pacific Hurricane Seasons.  The Atlantic Basin saw less than normal activity relative to named Tropical Storms, while the Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific Basins set new records for number of storms. 

The most recent update on USA drought from the USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey includes: "-Since mid-October, a procession of storms has significantly reduced U.S. drought coverage from 34.78 to 20.58%a drop of 14.20 percentage points.  Some of the heaviest precipitation has fallen across previously drought-affected areas of the Pacific Northwest; central and southern Plains; middle Mississippi Valley; mid-South; and lower Southeast.  Across the south-central and southeastern U.S., the enhanced rainfall is consistent with the atmospheric response to unusually warm water over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean (El Ni񯩮  In addition, enhanced tropical activity in the eastern North Pacific is a hallmark of warm-episode (El Ni񯩠events; thus, it is worth noting that the remnants of Pacific Hurricane Sandra contributed abundant tropical moisture to a late-November storm complex over the south-central U.S."  No significant drought areas exist in Minnesota going into this winter. 

MPR Listener Question:

I have heard Paul Huttner on MPR mention several times that the year 2015 will be the warmest in the global record since 1880.  How is the year 2015 shaping up for Minnesota in terms of temperature and precipitation ranking? 


From preliminary statewide data it appears that the first eleven months of 2015 (Jan-Nov) ranks as the 6th warmest year in Minnesota since 1895, and roughly analogous to the warm years of 1999 and 2010.  With a warmer than normal December, the year 2015 may move up in the ranking as high as 5th historically, but will likely trail the warm years of 1931, 1998, 1987 and 2012.  On a broader scale, many western states are recording their warmest year of record including MT, ID, UT, AZ, NV, WA, OR, and CA. 

For the record, total precipitation statewide in 2015 ranks as the 37th wettest year since 1895, but the ranking will go higher with the addition of December precipitation.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 4th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 31 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 16 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 4th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 56 degrees F in 1941; lowest daily maximum temperature of 2 degrees F in 1991: lowest daily minimum temperature is -15 degrees F in 1886; highest daily minimum temperature of 44 F in 1941; record precipitation of 0.58 inches 1877; and record snowfall of 4.2 inches in 1947.

Average dew point for December 4th is 19 degrees F, with a maximum of 49 degrees F in 1960 and a minimum of -19 degrees F in 1991.

All-Time State Records for December 4th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 71 degrees F at Long Prairie (Todd County) in 1941.  The state record low temperature for this date is -38 degrees F at Fort Ripley (Morrison County) in 1873.  State record precipitation for this date is 1.55 inches at Cass Lake (Cass County) in 1951; and record snowfall is 14.0 inches at Beardsley (Big Stone County) in 1955.

Past Weather Features:

A Cold Wave gripped the state over December 3-4, 1873 dropping temperatures to -38F at Fort Ripley and keeping temperatures below 0F for two consecutive days at New Ulm. Temperatures rebounded into the mid to upper 30s F by mid-month.

The first week of December in 1886 was one of the coldest in history with 6 consecutive nights of subzero temperatures even in southern Minnesota counties.  The cold was reinforced by widespread snow cover and the temperature bottomed out at Moorhead with a reading of -35F.

There was a very warm start to the month of December in 1941.  Most observers in the state reported daytime highs in the 50s and 60s F on December 4th.  Even overnight lows remained in the 40s F at a number of locations.

One of the snowiest first weeks of December in state history occurred in 1950 when 5 consecutive days (Dec 2-6) brought measurable snowfall to most communities.  Central and northeastern counties received the most with total accumulations ranging from 10 to 24 inches.  Duluth received over 33 inches that week.  School cancellations were common in Duluth and other northeastern Minnesota communities.

December 3-5, 1953 brought a major winter storm to Minnesota.  This storm produced a mixture of rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow.  An ice storm prevailed across southeastern counties closing down schools and businesses.  Across central and northern Minnesota many observers reported 10-15 inches of snow.

Another very warm first week of December was recorded in 1998.  Temperatures rose into the 50s and 60s F in the southern half of the state and many golf courses re-opened for business, despite the shortened days of winter.


A mild weekend under partly to mostly cloudy skies, with slight chances for precipitation in the eastern sections.  Continued mild and generally dry for much of next week as well.
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